Improvijazzation Nation, issue # 69

# 69

Issue # 69 REVIEWS

FEATURED Zzaj Productions album samples

We now have 2 TOTALLY FREE CD’s (with free cover art) available for download at our NETLABEL site!  The only thing we ask is that you scroll to the bottom of the page(s) & give us a REVIEW!  Please ADVERTISE this to ALL your friends… tell them we are GIVING AWAY music!

Check out th’ “new” Zzaj “diary

Gill Whitehurst – GREEN AND LIVING CROWN:   This is another of the fantastic indie CD’s I’ve been getting in from places like MIXPOSURE & INDIE HANGOUT (among other places).  Whether you know it or not, there is some serious talent out there on the nets, & Gill’s music is a prime example of what that means.  This is her first CD, but don’t let that make you think she is a “newcomer”, or without substance.  Her lyrics alone will hold you spellbound, revealing little nuances of life you (probably) haven’t thought about in many moons.  The songs are arranged perfectly, with focus on the vocals, as well as a strong variety of musical styles that you just wouldn’t necessarily expect.. and it is that element of surprise and wonder that shine clearly through in your listening experience.  I am reminded of other lady singers that I’ve enjoyed for so many years.. Joni Mitchell, Carole King… even Amy Denio – one of the strongest tunes (I thought) was “Changes”, track 10… a very rhythmic trip through the ever-turning wheel that life can be, with some grand saxophone work (by Chris Gumbley) – unique & beautiful music that will have you dancing, crying & laughing, without doubt!  This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, as well as the “PICK” of this issue for “best female vocalist”… you should definitely consider this one!  Contact at  or    Rotcod Zzaj

spoonPhase – MESSY MESSY MESSY:   Actually, this (true) INDIE CD isn’t at all “messy”.  spoonPhase, aka Sam Hodge, submitted this after I asked him to send whatever he had.  This takes me (immediately) back to the old “hometaper” days (back in the ’80’s, kiddies), when new ideas & high creative energy was in abundance.  The difference between those early days & now, of course, is that production quality is amazingly better than when we started that.  Now, I don’t want a bunch of letters about how Zzaj is “knocking” tape.. ‘coz that’s not what I mean at all.  Sam has put together several tracks here that take in “space” territory, as well as some “industrial”, with nice wordweave (on occasion) .throughout; & because (I assume) of digital technology, even his pre-production CD is of excellent  quality.  There are several compositions that reach into ambient  territory, too… in particular was “Sitting Together”, which kind of aurally describes that experience (in a very non-boring way).  Another really nice track (that he first debuted on SOUNDCLICK (I think that’s where it was, anyway) is “HUGS”… a really sweet tune that you’ll fall in love with very quickly.  MY favorite track, though, was “Choking on Air – Moving on Air”… sort of makes me think of what th’ first anti-grav machine will sound/feel like (though I understand that may not be exactly what Sam had in mind… sorry, Sam, that’s just how it felt).  Very nice electronic sounds, with fine percussives highlighting the track, it’s a tune with guts!  “Sinelink” comes in a close second.  This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from any & all listeners who are craving a taste of “different” in their creative listening experience.  Contact at Sam Hodge, 636 Shaw St., Barboursville, WV 25504, ph: 304-633-1611 Rotcod Zzaj

Grachan Moncur III octet – EXPLORATION:   There is no doubt but what this is a nicely exploratory jazz CD.   Moncur’s trombone jazz has more kick than many other giants of jazz ever thought of… he’s a big fan of Monk’s compositional style, & that certainly comes through in his pieces.  There’s a true “big band” sound on most of the tracks, & the energy is fantastic!  Probably when Grachan was doin’ free jazz in th’ ’60’s, the form (or lack of it) wasn’t as widespread (& thus more accessible) as it is today… I believe many artists from that era are surging back on th’ scene, simply because listeners are better able to deal with it.  The title track is my favorite along those lines… constant movement, great interplay between brass, reeds & drums, & all with a totally clear sense of the direction they’re taking the listener(s) in.  Cut 4, “New Africa”, is another favorite… takes me back to that sense of “exploration” many of us (as listeners and players) felt in the ’60’s & ’70’s.  Some great rhythms boiling & surging down under, & solid voices (from the horns, in particular) singing sad & joyful together.  This is an album that will be welcomed by jazz listeners across the generations, & gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  A beautiful album that is a guaranteed keeper!  Contact through the Capri label site, at    Rotcod Zzaj

John T. Baker – ROUGH SKELETON:   How wonderful it is to have been part of the “DIY” movement that surged (on tape) in th’ 1980’s & early 1990’s… something I like to term the “Gajoob era”, because one of the strongest proponents of that “hometaper” scene & all the genius it exposed was Bryan Baker’s ‘zine, Gajoob.  & (if I remember correctly), that’s where I first “met” John T.  Well, he’s clearly entered th’ digital age (& actually, I think, he’s been digital for quite some time now).  Anyway, th’ real point is that he’s got legends (from th’ “Gajoob era”) like Michael J. Bowman on this CD, & th’ production is SUPERB… through & through, if you dig rockin’ with an “edge”, you’ll be captivated from th’ moment you turn th’ CD on.  Heavy guitars, great fun songs that show talent in all it’s natural glory!  Baker’s compositions sometimes remind me of the legendary home-taper Don Campau (KKUP radio), but the production on this album takes “homemade” to a brand-new label.  Very accessible, some lovely tunes, & th’ same high energy that all of us fed on (& grew from) during those earlier years.  This is like meeting an “old friend” in th’ mailbox… very, very cool tunes… this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears, & th’ “PICK” of this issue for “best DIY CD” of 2004.  Contact through his site, at     Rotcod Zzaj

Kakalla – THE SEEDS OF ANALOG REBELLION:   This group has been a favorite of ours for a long time now, & it’s leader, bassist Thomson Kneeland, has been reviewed with several other groups (here in our magazine) as well.  This Kakalla CD is a bit different, in that it weaves some dense/sweet electronics into many of th’ pieces.  The album notes don’t really say much more than “electronics” on th’ credit lists, & it would have been nice to know a little more detail about what gear was being used (& in the tradition of this magazine, whereby we often dialog directly with the artists, this response, from Thomson himself, clarifies things just a bit – “to answer your semi rhetorical question, most of the electronics you hear on the album is me:  acoustic bass running through rackmount delay modelers, filter modelers, and sometimes sampled live and put at half speed or doublespeed, etc… Essentially, everything you hear on the album electronically is an acoustical sound that is manipulated in real time)…. that’s only a very minor complaint, though, because it is the pleasantly exploratory nature of the music that will count (for more than anything) to the listener.  don’t let the word “electronics” throw you off buying the album, either… this is jazz, pure & simple, & beautifully put together.  The electronics aren’t a “sideline”, they are woven right in with the piece, but they’re easy to comprehend as a part of the “whole” experience… in other words, they’re not intrusive at all, & only contribute to grasping what was going through Thomson’s mind (or fingers) as the tracks were being put together.  My favorite track on the CD is “Caustic Raptures Of The Cloven Hoof”, which features some of those integrated sounds.  This group has been together for 4 or 5 years now, & it shows!  The compositions are extremely tight, & they are totally conscious & aware of each other all the way through the album.  This gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us, especially for those listeners who want to move on into the new century, but not leave their jazz roots behind them.  A really fine album that will be a “keeper”!  Contact at or      Rotcod Zzaj

Rick Ray – CHAINSAW MANICURE:   We’re always happy to get new material in from this rockin’ player… he’s been making some real scorchers over the last few years… & this CD is no different… just BETTER!  Rick’s guitars will melt th’ electric pulses right into your spirit… that’s especially true since he (says) he draws much of his own inspiration from the Holy Spirit.  Under normal circumstances, I might argue against that, because I’ve seen a whole lot of “pretenders to the throne” in my time, & often mistrust them as soon as words like “Christian”, or “believer” come out of their mouths, or in their correspondence.  Th’ reason it can’t be disputed in Mr. Ray’s case, though, is because his musical energy is ‘beyond human”… this kind of verve doesn’t come from players who have let themselves get sucked in by th’ false pleasures & promises of th’ world around us (& believe me, I know more than I’d like to admit about those attractions).  Th’ title of th’ album doesn’t particularly fit th’ “mood” of what he’s doing here – as many of his other albums have done.  In other words, th’ CD title & track names don’t necessarily blend into a theme.  What DOES happen, though, is that you become entranced with this guy’s raw talent & message.  His guitar is a constant reminder that inspiration can be sorta’ driven by those electrified strings.  I just love his playing, & any listener with any kind of background in music that takes you to new heights will agree… this is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Contact through th’ site at or via e-mail to    Rotcod Zzaj

Al Ashley – THESE ARE THEM:   Some downright wicked organ by Oliver Von Essen floatin’ behind that fine sax from David Liebman, & of course, th’ leader’s drums (Mr. Ashley himself) are a driving force in/of themselves on his debut album.  Put that together with some high energy stratospheric guitar by Rick Stone, & you’ve got one sweet CD.  This is especially true for folks who’ve been enchanted by solid jazz licks for their whole lives… jazz folks will dig big on this session.  The CD doesn’t hit the streets until 1 February, 2005 – so get your order in now!  These are all original tracks, from all the artists, & (as per usua), it’s evident in the playing that any time it’s the artists’ own track, energy will be higher!  This is the first time we’ve heard David playing in a while, & his style here seems a bit different than when we’ve reviewed him previously.  Al makes a strong case for percussion being the “force” in jazz (or any other music, I reckon)… the album is recorded superbly, and there are no players “stepping” on others… but you can tell from the first bar, all the way to the last track, that Ashley is driving this train!  Another thing that comes across very clearly is that these folks are totally comfortable playing with each other… this is one of the most spontaneous jazz albums you’ll listen to this year!  I think the organ adds a lot to that spontaneous feel, but it can’t be “zoned” in on any one player – they’re all very nicely woven together, & th’ listener feels like they’re right there in the living/stereo room, playing just for them.  This CD gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, & totally deserves it!   Contact via the site, at  or via e-mail to    Rotcod Zzaj

mJane – PRAYERS FROM THE UNDERBELLY:   This very interesting recording was captured during 2nd Annual High Mayhem Festival, in Santa Fe, NM, in November of 2003.  It is quite well recorded, after the intro.   During the introduction, composer Molly Sturges leads in with sort of “low-key” vocals (what I mean by that is that you really have to listen to grasp what she is doing), but as the players get settled in a bit, and the piece begins to take shape, it is clear that the voice is being explored as the key instrument.  It’s not “spoken word”, or some drab/screaming speaker flogging you about with phrases that don’t make sense.  On the other hand, as it goes into the second movement, there are some strong vocal stretches that might be “frightening” to some.  & no wonder, according to the liners, this was based on a Near Death Experience (NDE) that Ms. Sturges had during the birth of her daughter.  I can tell you (having been through an NDE myself) that there are parts of this that remind me of the ghostly “snatches” you see/hear when passing through the tunnel.  From a listener’s standpoint, this will require headphones and some level of intensity… you can not grasp what the performers are trying to communicate if you try to do this as “background” for your cocktail party.  Adventurous listeners the world over will agree when I declare this to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED… those without any sense of adventure will probably fare better listening to the theme from Mary Poppins!  Contact through the site at  or via e-mail to     Rotcod Zzaj

The Jay Leonhart Trio, with Ted Rosenthal and Joe Cohn – COOL:   This jazz CD is really very “uptown”, featuring Jay’s superb bass & vocal skills, along with some super smooth piano by Rosenthal & guitar from Joe.  The liners refer to Leonhart as the “Fred Astaire of jazz”… & that’s about as accurate as it gets… I mean, you can see his fingers dancing/flitting over those bass strings… it’s just like the title says – COOL!   Jay’s vocals are about as “hep-cat” as you’ll hear these days… it’s th’ title track where his vocal talents shine so brightly… a bouncy back-alley cut that sounds uniquely Leonhart, no doubt.  The players are fused together as though they are Siamese triplets… I mean, this group is tight!  In fact, the compositions are SO well integrated that you often don’t realize it’s a trio… sounds kind of like ONE player is doin’ it all.   Cohn’s guitar is some of the best jazz you’ll hear this year, or next, or… well, you get the picture, eh?  The thing that’s so “cool” about Mr. Leonhart’s music, best reflected on his original, “For Real” (my favorite cut on the album) is that they recall an era where jazz was light-hearted, yet spirit filled… & help the listener to reclaim a little bit of that wonderful time.  This CD gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with a strong urging that you rush right out & buy this one… it “hit the streets” on 16 November, 2004, so if you want your C-mas copy – better get it NOW!  Contact through the label site, at     Rotcod Zzaj

Ellen Weller – SPIRITS, LITTLE DREAMS and IMPROVISATIONS:   Always a pleasure to get a new CD in from our friends at CIRCUMVENTION MUSIC – Ms. Weller’s improvisations are a most welcome addition to our review pool.  I spent (about) an hour “getting familiar” with what she is doing on this CD… she has a “cast of characters” far too large to itemize here… suffice it to say that with folks like Marco Fernandes, Nathan Hubbard & Charlie/Bob Weller joining her (& many others), she couldn’t go wrong.  Her clarinet opens the set, on “Elemental 1-1”, a favorite of mine, because of the fluid interactions between the clarinet & the crisp/precise percussion movements.  This is Ellen’s debut CD, & she knows how to start somethin’ off RIGHT, I’ll tell you.  The compositions vary grandly, all the way from the “expected” point&shoot kinds of things to fully atmospheric journeys on “Grandma Rose’s Dreml” (my favorite track on the album, by the way).  Headphones are definitely a requirement, at least on the first couple of listens… you’ll miss far too much if you don’t let yourself get absorbed into Weller’s magicks.  Another track (12 minutes long) that will enchant you is “Celebration, Transfiguration and Release Into The Ether”; great intensity, without being overbearing.  This musical journey/experience is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners whose ears crave adventure and fresh sounds.  Contact at    Rotcod Zzaj

Roger Davidson Trio – RODGERS IN RIO:   Obviously, this is a celebration of Richard Rogers’s music, & what better style to do it than Brazilian?  Roger plays piano, & is joined by David Finck on bass & fantastic Paulo Braga on drums… & they kick on this great little CD.  If you’re looking for strange & “out there” jazz, you’ll have to move on to another rack, please… this is jazz with a “fun” spirit, & though light at heart, all th’ players convey a wealth of knowledge of how to play jazz that has “meat on it’s bones”.  The recording is sleek, & there’s a great foldout jacket in the tray liner that gives you even more insight to the recording.  Davidson’s keyboard touch on track 3, “Some Enchanted Evening” will make you fall in love with his playing right away… it’s my favorite cut on the album, with very tight integration between all members of the trio, but appropriate focus on Roger’s smooth keyboard style.  Didn’t hear any originals on this one, & I imagine that’s just because it’s a tribute… would LOVE to hear some on the next CD, though, Roger.  This is a jazz recording that will bring the “carnival” spirit into your heart… it gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears.  Contact through the label site, at    Rotcod Zzaj

David Borgo – REVERENCE FOR UNCERTAINTY:   No doubt about the degree of “reverence” that David holds for things not certain… his reeds (soprano, alto & tenor sax, pennywhistle, chalumeau & chromatic low whistle go in many directions, none (in the least) predictable.  That’s not to say that this is a “blowing in the wind” set… these folks (far too many to itemize here, about 10 of them) are solid, & you won’t find a “wandering” moment here.  This is another Circumvention Music CD, & we’ve come to trust them a great deal for recording artists with extreme talent.  This is Borgo’s second CD on the label, & this totally improvised set shows his considerable (over 20 years worth of) experience.  The tracks are all filled with robust energy, & display the attitude that it takes to foster creativity in such random settings.  Listeners who have never heard music that is composed on the fly may be overwhelmed at first, because the players are so well in touch with each other that the flow never slows down (even on the slower pieces).  I’m very highly impressed, & give this a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for anyone who wants to experience the unknown.  Contact/order the CD via the website, at    Rotcod Zzaj

Judi Silvano – SONGS I WROTE, OR WISH I DID:   Around September, 2004, I reviewed the first Silvano CD we had heard… made some commentary about not hearing a lot of “originals”.  Judi promptly sent a package with several of her CD’s, all featuring original tracks.  This one is the last of the stack, & fully half of the 12 cuts were penned by Ms. Silvano.  Those who have read this ‘zine for some years now know that I believe originals usually carry more “weight”, in the sense that the performer usually will belt it out more when they wrote the tune… you know, th’ energies are easier to “project”!  That certainly holds true on this one… jazz lovers th’ world over will be (like totally, man) caught UP in Judi’s crystal-clear delivery & exuberance.  I was strongly impressed on my first listen to Judi’s “brand” of jazz, & she comes across with even more uniqueness on “Songs I Wrote”.  Her scat style (once again) on track 7, “Listen To This”, just blew me away.. & when you put Larry Goldings’ on organ, Essiet Essiet’s bass, Vic Juris’ H-O-T guitar & Victor Lewis’ drums behind it, you wind up with what this is – my FAVORITE TRACK on the album; cut 9, “Hey Boy”, is another romper, too!    If you’re looking for “the same old jazz” – go elsewhere… but if you want tunes & energies that will stick in your mind for years & years – GET THIS album.  It gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating!   Contact at Judi’s site, at  (there’s an e-mail button on Judi’s page)      Rotcod Zzaj

Lloyd Gregory – FREE FALLING:   This CD had gotten “buried” in the staks, probably from when we were moving from place to place in ’03.  Though it (sometimes) takes me a while, I keep EVERYTHING I’ve received, so that’s why this is being reviewed now (my apologies to Lloyd & Creative Services Company).  It would have been our loss if we hadn’t kept it for later review.  Gregory’s jazz guitar immediately takes the listener back to an era when there were lots of really cool players… Wes Montgomery, of course, or George Benson or Earl Klugh.  & though Lloyd clearly comes from that style/era, he’s got a 21st century energy that is timeless… my second favorite track, “Kermudgen”, has  a (seemingly) boundless energy.  It’s the title track that gets my top vote, feeling like “smooth jazz”, but keeping it out of that (dreaded) category with an infusion of soul & R&B style that sets it apart from all the other “jazz elevator music” wannabes.  I’m sure that th’ heavy R&B influence in his style comes from having played with very soulful folks like Martha Reeves, Sly & The Family Stone & Tower Of Power’s Lenny Williams (to name just a few).  This is one of the best CD’s we’ve heard this year, & it gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as (a belated) “PICK” for best “not smooth” jazz!  This one is a real keeper!  One place you can purchase this CD is at   or the publicist, at        Rotcod Zzaj

Symphony In Demeanor – THE FIRST ONE:   We are very fortunate here at “I.N.”… we always seem to stumble on the “new trends” in music… not just the music itself, but changes in the Internet marketing arena, & trends that are happening.  This CD is a great representation of that… the group was just voted the 2005 “BEST ALBUM” in the 2nd annual “International On-Line Music Awards” (IOMA)… the entire album is available for free download at  with a printable/downloadable cover now, ain’t THAT cool?   & of course, they wouldn’t be in this magazine unless they had something unique, musically, to offer!  The CD they sent me has various & sundry styles, that they call “new music – retro sound”, & not much else could describe it better…. it is NOT just “Beatles re-hash”… they’ve got some cuts on the album that come awfully close to the Fab Four in content & psychedelic style, but they’ve merged some very funky guitars, organ & drums that keep this (DECIDEDLY) “new music”.  I’m wondering, as I sit here listening, “is this a resurgence of the great musical energies that happened during the ’60’s?”  The strings & symphonic sounds on “Another Birthday”, track 4 (my favorite cut on the CD) show some wonderful capabilities at composing, then move into near-prog turf; I’m telling you, these guys kick the walls down, & write a “mean song”!  It’s clear that they love playing music, & I’ve no doubt  (not even a little one) that listeners all over the world will love their music!  We can’t wait for “The Second One”, guys!  This one gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & the “PICK” of this issue for “most creative approaches to music & 21st Century music”!  As indicated above, visit their site above & get this whole album/cover for free… then, if you agree with my assessment, hit the PURCHASE button… support this band, they’re doin’ great things.  You can also reach them for more information at 604-649-4904, or by e-mailing Rob at   Rotcod Zzaj

Matt Turner – DADA EAR INK:   Cellist Matt Turner has been one of our favorite improvisors for many, MANY years now… we’ve listened to (& reviewed) his solo piano efforts before, & “DADA EAR INK” is no disappointment, either!  This CD features some serious clanging & banging on the stringboard for the intro… some absolutely strange sounds , all recorded direct, no overdubs!  Turner has the “inner ear” required of a true improvisor, & he will challenge your ears, to be sure.  This isn’t a “jangly” piano album, either… Matt is able to “milk” the harmonics out of the stringboard to the point where the listener can visualize their own symphony.  Now, obviously, if you’ve never heard a piano player working the strings before (rather than just playing the keys), this will be “different”… “frightening”, even.  If you give your ears (and your mind) half a chance, though, you will very quickly become absorbed by what he is doing, & find yourself hearing these sounds in the most unlikely places… while you’re driving down the freeway, shaving in the morning or paying your electric bill.  The musical experience is a “date with enchantment”, and you will find yourself highly impressed with Turner’s piano improvisations.  I’m impressed enough to give him a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED & the “PICK” of this issue for “most refreshing improv”!  Contact via e-mail to or     Rotcod Zzaj

Mayumi Kaneyuki – THE BLUE YOU BREATHE:   I requested whatever Mayumi had ready for CD, after hearing her over HERE, with her partner from Peru, Carlos Campos… she’s originally from Japan, but hooked up with Carlos in Los Angeles.  What a joyful jazz sound this is, too!  As you might imagine, there are some strong Latino influences, but the blend of that with strong jazz piano from Carlos & slight tinges of Oriental, make this one of the hottest new albums I’ve listened to this year.  The recording is crystal clear, & the talent shines through brilliantly.  It’s hard to “pigeonhole” Ms. Kaneyuki’s vocal style… I mean, you’ll hear sexy, soft, jazz (for sure) & lots of other nuances, but what comes across most clearly is that she has energy behind her performances; a star on the rise, for sure.  The copy I received from Carlos is a pre-production copy, so the credit lists (though there) aren’t totally done yet, I’m imagining… he said he’d send me a copy of the final release, though, & I’m surely hoping he DOES do that!  The compositions go much further than just “lounge jazz”, & have FAR better style than any of today’s watered-down “smooth jazz” (which I totally abhor).  If you’re looking for some truly relaxing music that will soothe & (at the same time) nurture your spirit – GET THIS!  Be sure to keep your EARS on this group – they are stellar!  It comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me!  Contact at or    Rotcod Zzaj

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ALL artists!  I am very, VERY happy to announce that IMPROVIJAZZATION NATION is ACCEPTING SUBMISSIONS again.  I have been granted a (possibly long-term) stay of execution for my trip to Iraq.  I will still  be traveling all over the U.S., so new issues may be a little less timely, but (as always), we will review your materials as soon as possible after we receive them.  Look at the guidelines for submission below, please:

MUSIC:  All formats accepted.  Snail mail to:  Zzaj Productions, c/o Dick Metcalf, 5308 65th Avenue, Lacey, WA 98513  The only criteria for music you submit is that it MUST HAVE high performance energy… if you submit lacklustre material, it will be reviewed accordingly

POETRY:  Poems are accepted for publication ONLY via e-mail.  Poems submitted in any other fashion will NOT be published.  Poetry that includes some reference to music is granted first priority for publication.

BOOKS:  We will review some books; books about music are PREFERRED.  We will NOT return any books submitted for review.  Snail them to the address listed above for MUSIC.

DIY Announcements:  We will post your (e-mailed) ad about DIY projects, regardless of genre or medium… HOWEVER, this is ONLY for INDEPENDENTS… if you are a corporation, don’t even BOTHER sending stuff… it will be marked and reported as SPAM!

Yesterday’s Appeal

Worn apologies fall

from the sky like a

cliché.  The beach storms,

unquenched.  In patches you

cannot fathom daylight, no

desire to find sun, sky moves

wait through drops delivered

by today, I see you

soaked, uncomfortable, like

the waves beneath rocking

us further from safety,

embarrassing the

puddles at my feet.

The Banquet

I climb to your

table and plunge

into your feast.

I struggle to

make it down

to your plate – but,

as I approach the

banquet ends.

The guests

Rise from their

seats, and I

cannot get to



The smoke smell sticks

to my skin in the cold.

It takes me to where

she was that night.

As I approached

her weeping, whimpering,

shaking form, I asked

the crowd What

was the matter?  A faceless

man turned to me and

whispered “She just said

she wanted to cry tonight.”

submitted by:  Emily E. Schulten, 374 Barber St., Athens, GA 30601

INTERVIEW with Joel Krutt



Zzaj:   Your show, “Pushing The Envelope”, has been a very cool underground station.  How long have you been doing the show?

JK:  Thanks!   The program airs on WHUS, the radio station at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.  My tenure with “Pushing The Envelope” started about 15 years ago.  The program started with multiple DJs in rotation, then down to two of us when I came on board, then about a year later I was solo behind the board.

Zzaj:  What got you started on the show?  Were you doing tapes when you started it, or only CD’s?

JK:  When I was in college many moons ago, I had always wanted to be involved with the station there, but it was very clique-ish and tough to get involved in without knowing someone.  WHUS is the exact opposite, involving both students and community members. In my case, I was driving around eastern Connecticut one day playing the ever-popular game, “radio roulette”, searching for some decent music. I wandered down to the left hand side of the dial and ran across WHUS and an announcement describing their training program.  The classes started the following week, and by the end of that summer in 1989, I was co-host of “Pushing The Envelope”.

At that time, I played some CDs, a lot of vinyl, (You remember vinyl?) and became increasingly interested in DYI independent cassette releases when I ran across a multitude of reviews in the late, great periodical “Factsheet Five”.  I still sometimes play some of the tapes I received back then.  One of my favorites is “Art Teacher” by a guy who went by the name of “Joy Before The Storm”.  Broadcast samples, dark ambience, and lots of imagination.  Al Margolis’ tape label “Sound of Pig” put out some very interesting experimental stuff.  He still has them available for sale at    Check it out.

Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the tapes that you were kind enough to send my way such as “Riding The Lizard”, your collaboration with guitarist Eric Hausmann . (Check out the Zzaj Samples page for a taste.) 

Zzaj:  Digitization has certainly changed the “face” of the Internet, & now there is a lot of focus on INTERNET RADIO…. will (or does) “Pushing The Envelope” broadcast over the net?

JK:  WHUS has been simulcasting their air signal for a few years now.  Just log onto  and you can check out our programming in real time.  My show is on Tuesday evenings from 8 to 10pm, EST.  It’s nice that while the programming is on, you can instant message the DJ on the air using the screen name, “WHUSDJ”. 

Zzaj:  What kinds of changes have you noticed (especially in the last 5 years or so) in the quality of music being submitted for airplay?

JK:  The overall sonic quality of independently produced music has improved dramatically since the “bedroom tape” DIY efforts of the 80s vintage cassette and vinyl releases.  The advent of affordable computer technology, in both hardware and software, has allowed everyone the possibility of producing digital music in their own homes without tape machines, mixers, and other more involved equipment.  Digital music technology allows the creation of virtual renditions of all this equipment in the comfort of your own office.  (That’s where I work on my own music.)

While the “rough-edge” aspect of DIY releases are often still evident, and often quite endearing, with digital editing programs available to the masses for next to nothing, the artist can do some serious cleanup.  Less background noise, overall better sonics, and in the case of digitally produced electronically based music, extremely high quality due to the fact the source materials and processing remain purely digital, having never left the computer.  That being said, you can have all the high tech tools in the world and none of these things are a substitute for creativity and imagination.

Zzaj:  Is there anything particular that an artist should include (with his music) when submitting for airplay?

JK:  Some rendition of a one-sheet with some info about the artist and music is certainly helpful, though not mandatory for receiving airplay.  I would suggest including some reference to what type of music is being included on the release,  contact information, track times, and for those of us who are on the outside of FCC “safe haven” hours, if your release includes any “naughty bits”  that might be a legal issue if played at 10 in the morning. (Trust me; in the political climate of the times we live, this IS important.)

 Zzaj:  Are you “tired” of doing INDIE music on your show?  Is there a particular style of music or musician that does NOT get played on your show?

JK:  Tired??!!!!!  HAH!!!!  If the major labels were all to simultaneously get sucked into a giant cosmic wormhole and never be heard from again, I would be only marginally affected.  I would venture a guess that 98 percent of the music I play comes from independent labels.  Often these labels put out music by well-established artists who show up in the major label world, but often not their most commercial efforts.

To give a couple of examples, in the world of contemporary classical you’ve got Cantaloupe Music ( which puts out some beautifully produced and played stuff and is run by the folks who make up the Bang On A Can All-Stars. 

There’s the Innova label ( that puts out contemporary classical and more out there jazz releases that are of a consistently high quality.  Similar in scope and genre, but from a different vantage point, Al Margolis’ Pogus Production label (no I’m not on the dole from Al) puts out consistently high quality releases. (Check out their latest, “Kientzy Plays Johnson”.  It’s wonderful!)  In the progressive rock and outré-jazz world, there is always Steve Feigenbaum’s Cuneiform Records  ( which has always put out the most wonderful releases, many which exist as bought copies in my personal collection.

Now these are not from the DYI private release CD-R realm which show up regularly, but represent a sampling of current independent labels that have long been supporters and musical staples of programs such “Pushing The Envelope”.

Zzaj:  I’ve noticed that you’ve made a few CD’s yourself…. what is the focus of those CD’s?  Why are you doing them?

JK:   I’ll answer this by quoting my own “one-sheet” that goes along with my release “What Next?”

“There are times when you are exposed to something long enough that it works its way through your neural networks and finds its way back out again, filtered through whatever capacities you can bring to it.

For the past 14 years I’ve hosted a radio program, “Pushing The Envelope – Music Decidedly Left of Center” on WHUS, the radio station of the University of Connecticut.  During that time I’ve become quite partial to electronic music as well as classical minimalism.  From Brian Eno to Philip Glass, these styles have developed, first quite separately, then with the advent of computer technology, coinciding. (Check out John Adams’ “Hoodoo Zephyr” for a fine example of this.)

With the advent of sequencing and sound editing software for the “common man”, thousands of individuals have been able to express themselves musically, for better or for worse, for the first time.  I felt it was my time to jump into the fray.  From the early Steve Reich-ian homage, “BabyPhase” to the quiet ambience of “JimC”, I’ve distilled a lot of the music I’ve listened to and played for others into my own personal expression.  I hope something here works for you.”

If anyone would like to check out my music, the CD is available for free download at .  (Speaking of independently released DYI music, Soundclick  is an excellent source of music in any genre you can imagine.)

I also have a track on an interesting DYI compilation that was created under the auspices of a web-site called, “Projekction”.  This site is devoted to the music and related issues involving the band “King Crimson”.  They sponsored a project where participants were give a whole pile of instrumental samples and were required to use at least one to compose a piece of music.  If you’d like to check out or download that track, you can find it at (Audiostreet is a site similar in nature to Soundclick.)

Zzaj:  If you were able to have any artist (or group) on your show (live), who would it/they be?

JK:  Over the past 15 years, I’ve had the opportunity to interview folks such as guitarist Robert Fripp, harmonic-overtone singer Jim Cole, reed player/composer Ken Field, and Canadian composer/guitarist Tim Brady, in addition to having had local live music in the studio.  As far as a wish-list, I’d love to have the opportunity to interview some of my favorite composers such as Philip Glass, Steve Riech, John Adams, or Alvin Lucier.  For live music, I’d go for King Crimson, any assemblage involving Bill Laswell, avant jazz-rock group Birdsongs of The Mesozoic, or maybe a couple of my guitar heroes such as Allan Holdsworth or Buckethead. 

Zzaj:  What will radio be “all about” (your call) in 10 years?  Will it be different, or pretty much the same as now?

JK:  The delivery method may alter a bit with commercial and public stations broadcasting digitally, which should result in better signal quality and the potential to include data information, such as song titles and artist info that your radio could pick up.  (This is already starting at some of the large commercial stations.)  Other than that, I’m not sure much will change as far as content. 

Larger college stations are already finding themselves in precarious situations in terms of how they “earn their keep” for the colleges and universities where they reside. There’s a battle going on right now at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT where a college administrator with long-standing ties to NPR wants to transform the free-form station into an NPR affiliate.  There appears to be little concern about individual voices or creativity that independent radio can provide.

Also, I feel the moral tenor of current days will have an effect on content, the FCC will pick out stations they feel will make good “object lessons” in the evils of obscenity (read this as smaller stations who can’t absorb the financial hit a legal case or fine might incur) while larger media institutions will get a slap on the wrist, publicly make a big deal about cleaning up, then go back to business as usual.  It’s not going to be pretty.

Zzaj:  For aspiring artists in our readership, & from your perspective as a DJ – what are your “words of wisdom”?

JK:  There are so many creative tools at your disposal as an independent artist and increasingly diverse ways to get your music out to a listening audience.  Whatever the music you make, trust me, there’s an audience (albeit often small) who will be interested in what you do. 

What this means is, creatively; go where your mind and your heart tell you to.  You’ll have numerous false starts, moments of doubt, but keep plugging away until what comes out of the speakers provides the emotional response you were looking for.  If the music resonates within you, given time, you’ll find others on the same frequency.


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Do NOT “count your chickens” too soon.  You know the old adage… don’t get complacent about anything these days… it’s an awfully easy thing for us “players” to do, too.  Our whole attitude (at least MINE, anyway) is geared to goin’ with the “flow”… & that often gets folks (like me) in a lotta’ HOT water.  I’ve ranted on this issue once or twice before, but it’s recently come & bit me (yet) again! 

     It’s true that in order to make (or be involved in) music that reaches for the “outer limits”, one must be focused… must shut out the normal, everyday influences, to the point that (as one who mediatates) those things (like mowin’ th’ lawn, or takin’ out the garbage) don’t invade the creative urges that drive us down the path to artistic oblivion.  The problem with that, on a personal level, is that (just like when yer’ stoned on Rollin’ Rock, or Lebanese Red) you’re pretty much unable to see (or care) how your state of ignorant bliss is affecting those you DO care for.

     I went through a recent spate of such myself… visit to the Dentist… abject pain, good codeine & a night or two on the nets without ANY consideration for those ’round me… almost brought the phroggin’ HOUSE down.  Of course, the musical involvement was FUN, & I was surely FOCUSED, but nearly at the expense of my marriage (of 20 years)… amazing how little it take to upset the balance, methinks.

    I’ll not divulge all the gory detail, just suffice it to say that I’ll be doing my best to “come back”, & not get on such a “jag” again anytime soon.  & would advise you ALL to stop & think (ev’ry once in a while, anyway) about what it is you value most… artistic freedom is an absolutely necessary element in creation – but not to the point where the expense is more than you can afford to pay (emotionally or elsewise). 

    THINK about it!  🙂


Till next time…,



Rotcod Zzaj





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